10 February 2011

BUB: A Deeper Look at the Ideological Struggle Over WikiLeaks

It's no secret that there's a lot of sound and fury surrounding WikiLeaks. It's also not hard to infer that we're not huge fans of WikiLeaks here at GrogNews. Opinions on GrogNews are everywhere, but it's particularly entertaining when people completely shoot themselves in the foot when talking about WikiLeaks.

One such essay comes from The Atlantic magazine, in an article entitled "Truth Lies Here ". The whole tenor of the article is that right-wing websites, especially newsblogs and other opinion sites, are manipulating the "truth" by trying to bury factual accounts of news that they don't like. By contrast, The Atlantic holds up WikiLeaks as a bastion of truth for truth's sake.

“We believe prima facie that true information does good,” Assange told The Economist in July. But even in his world of unmediated information, truth can be murky, as Assange noted in a CNN interview in which he defended the Afghanistan release as “legitimate reports,” but conceded: “It doesn’t mean the contents are true.” Assange was on surer ground last spring with his blockbuster leak of video footage that showed an American helicopter strike killing civilians in Iraq. The footage was grotesque, compelling, and a helpful reminder that war is far from the antiseptic experience usually portrayed in the U.S. media, and morally complex even in the most clear-cut of cases.

And yet, as chronicled by the New York Times - hardly a bastion of right-wing defensiveness - WikiLeaks have themselves been guilty of playing fast and loose with the "truth".

WikiLeaks’s biggest coup to that point was the release, last April, of video footage taken from one of two U.S. helicopters involved in firing down on a crowd and a building in Baghdad in 2007, killing at least 18 people. While some of the people in the video were armed, others gave no indication of menace; two were in fact journalists for the news agency Reuters. The video, with its soundtrack of callous banter, was horrifying to watch and was an embarrassment to the U.S. military. But in its zeal to make the video a work of antiwar propaganda, WikiLeaks also released a version that didn’t call attention to an Iraqi who was toting a rocket-propelled grenade and packaged the manipulated version under the tendentious rubric “Collateral Murder.”

(see both videos here)

Back to the Atlantic, where the author argues that the partisan "feedback loop" that one finds online is a bad thing, without bothering to acknowledge that similar sites exist for numerous left-wing causes like Palestinian 'independence' and the banning of private military contractors.

But factual counterterrorism is a tricky enterprise in this era of asymmetric information warfare. The urge to shape the data to suit the message, to outfit one’s argument with a set of misappropriated, cynically edited, or simply fabricated facts that can be fed into a self-sustaining partisan feedback loop, will no doubt prove irresistible to many. WikiLeaks’s Assange is playing an old game (see the Pentagon Papers; whistle-blowers in general) with powerful new tools. But the Breitbarts, Gingriches, and bury brigades are engaged in an enterprise uniquely enabled by the collapse of the center and the ubiquitous means by which information can spread instantly

Cracks are developing within the WikiLeaks hierarchy, too A new book from a former high-placed coder at WikiLeaks blasts Assange and his approach to the website.

WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange went from being "imaginative, energetic (and) brilliant" to a "paranoid, power-hungry, megalomaniac," a former colleague charges in a new book out Thursday.
Assange also has "a very free and easy relationship with the truth," Daniel Domscheit-Berg claims

That "free and easy relationship with the truth" is something that the New York Times clearly demonstrated, and yet The Atlantic - usually so very good about their articles - celebrates WikiLeaks as the truth standard against which we should judge conservative websites. That's setting the bar pretty low, eh?

And the greatest irony of all? WikiLeaks key transport mechanism was written by the US government, and it's an American hacker that makes it all go for them.

The Tor Project has received funding not only from major corporations like Google and activist groups like Human Rights Watch but also from the U.S. military, which sees Tor as an important tool in intelligence work. The Pentagon was not particularly pleased, however, when Tor was used to reveal its secrets. Wikileaks runs on Tor, which helps to preserve the anonymity of its informants. Though Appelbaum is a Tor employee, he volunteers for Wikileaks and works closely with Julian Assange, the group's founder. "Tor's importance to Wikileaks cannot be understated," Assange says. "Jake has been a tireless promoter behind the scenes of our cause."

By: Brant

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